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Kids in Poverty Can Still Learn

by Kevin P. Chavous
Huffington Post
October 23, 2012

During slavery, under some of the worse conditions known to man, slaves taught their kids to read by candlelight under the threat of death. And those kids learned.

On the heels of the great depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s new deal invigorated educational opportunities for poor white kids in places like Appalachia. And those kids learned.

Following the Vietnam War, thousands of Vietnamese refugees came to our nation. The vast majority of those children came to America unable to speak English and often lived with several families under one roof. And those kids learned.

In California, folks like Cesar Chavez fought for better working conditions for Latino migrant workers. While those families struggled to make ends meet, many strived to put their children in schools that would meet their needs. And those kids learned.

Throughout the history of our country, the unifying promise of America has been the hope for a better life for one’s children through education. Especially those children trapped in poverty. At every turn in our history, kids in poverty have demonstrated their ability to learn and succeed.

Today, as we struggle with what ails many of our schools, more and more emphasis is being placed on the linkage between poverty and education. It seems as though each week there is a new study trumpeting the difficulty of teaching low income children and; the fact that poverty needs to be taken into account when we delve into tissues pertaining to teacher effectiveness and the quality of a school’s overall performance.

I get all that. And I do agree that there must be better coordination of services between schools and those entities that help families in poverty. Without question, Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children Zone should be replicated all over America. Geoffrey understands the need to take

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Why is Mayor Gray jeopardizing aid for school choice in the District?

Letter to the Editor
Washington Post
April 13, 2012

The emerging centerpiece of education reform in the United States is parental school choice. All over this country, progressive, forward-looking public officials are supporting legislation that expands quality educational options for the children of working-class parents. It is finally sinking in that more quality options lead to improvements in traditional school districts.

For instance, legislators in Alabama and Mississippi are responding to parents’ outcry and are close to passing the first-ever meaningful charter school bills in those states. Similarly, just last week, a bipartisan group of legislators in the Louisiana House of Representatives passed a measure designed to expand statewide the successful New Orleans voucher program. Today, a growing number of leaders are realizing that true education reform includes long-range, systemic change along with immediate relief for families in need. Yes, we must fly the plane while we fix it.

Here, in the District, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of providing quality educational options, through innovative charter schools and our highly successful, federally funded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, through which more than 1,600 low-income children attend quality private schools. But all of that is being threatened by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D).

The release of Mr. Gray’s 2013 budget proposal makes clear that parental choice is no longer a priority of his administration. In the proposal, he breaches a promise made to charter school supporters by not closing the funding disparity between charter schools and traditional D.C. public schools.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Mr. Gray’s proposal also zeroes out the funding for the scholarship program — matching what President Obama did in his budget. This action could ultimately imperil $60 million in federal funds intended to support D.C. charter schools, D.C. Public Schools and the scholarship program. This three-sector initiative has brought

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